Forages play many important roles on the farm — as cash crops, livestock feeds, and pastures, and in healthy soil rotations. Midwestern BioAg’s Forage Program can help farmers unlock the full potential of their forage crop and maximize farm profitability.
Forages as Cash Crops
Twenty-year Midwestern BioAg customer Lauren Enzinger raises a large crop of alfalfa and alfalfa-grass mix hay each year. Supplying quality forages to his customer base is a major part of his operation. Enzin
ger’s buyers look for feed value, protein, and mineral content.
Enzinger came to Midwestern BioAg in the 1980s to improve the growth rate and stand uniformity of his alfalfa crop. With Midwestern BioAg’ help, Enzinger discovered calcium-deficient soils were the leading cause of his underperforming alfalfa crop. Enzinger has since used Midwestern BioAg’s calcium products Bio-Cal® and OrganiCal to grow top-quality forages for his customers. Today, Enzinger follows many biological farming principals in his forage program: short rotations (three years in hay), cover crops, balanced fertilizers, and mineralized soils.
In addition to calcium products, Midwestern BioAg offers liquid-carbon based fertilizers (L-CBF) for increased forage yield and quality.
Enzinger has used L-CBF Terra Fed™ in his forage program since 2013 when he first applied it to his alfalfa crop. In areas where L-CBF Terra Fed™ was applied, Enzinger could see that the alfalfa was leafier, taller, and more mature. Tests showed higher sugar, crude protein, NEL (Net Energy for Lactation), RFV, and RFQ levels, and improved IVTDMD (In Vitro True Dry Matter Digestibility).
“I’m sold on it,” Enzinger says. Enzinger advises that application timing is key; he applies L-CBF Terra Fed™ when alfalfa stands are 8-10” tall.
Forages in the Pasture
In southern Michigan, a herd of nearly 500 dairy cows can be found on Dan and Ken Sparks’ farm. Quality forages, in this case pastures, are vital to the success of the Sparks’ four-year-old seasonal dairy operation. Establishing a new dairy operation in the 21st century is challenging, and good management and attention to detail are crucial.
In areas where L-CBF Terra FedTM was applied, Enzinger could see that the alfalfa was leafier, taller, and more mature.
Early on, the Sparks realized they needed excellent pastures to meet the nutritional needs of their lactating cows. When soil tests showed their pastures were low on calcium and magnesium, they switched from applying local marl to using higher quality lime, K-Mag, and Midwestern BioAg’s Bio-Cal®. The Sparks improved their pastures by focusing on balancing and correcting their soil.
Using a pivot irrigation system, the Sparks apply 28% nitrogen every three weeks to coincide with their paddock rotation interval. They also apply ammonium sulfate in spring and fall. The result? “Pastures stay lush and green,” says Dan. As soils balanced, the Sparks saw improved forage analyses. Plants had more minerals, more calcium and magnesium, and an improved nitrogen to sulfur ratio.
Midwestern BioAg’s consulting services have been drivers of success on the Sparks’ farm. The Sparks work closely with Consultants Steve Hooley and Duane Siegenthaler and Nutrition Specialist Dave Meidl to maximize the potential of forages on their farm.
Forages in the Rotation
Bob Bellmeyer has a small farm in southwestern Wisconsin where he successfully grows alfalfa as a cash crop. Despite less-than-ideal ground, Bob consistently achieves good yields using the Midwestern BioAg program: hay over six tons per acre, corn at 185 bu/acre, and soybeans at 50 bu/acre.
Bob uses a three-crop rotation: soybeans, corn, and hay. He seeds about 10 acres per year with a nurse crop of oats, often finding it a challenge to combine the oats before the hay gets too big. “The hay grows too well,” Bob notes.
Bob has used Bio-Cal® for the past 10 years to raise the calcium content of his soil and maximize alfalfa yields. He also uses short rotations (keeping a field in hay for no more than four years) and applies 300 lbs/acre of 3-10-25.
“It’s as good a program as there is,” Bob says of Midwestern BioAg’s forage program. “If you stick with the program, your soil improves.”